We have learned that in a couple of weeks, California Conservation Corps Crews under the direction of California State Parks will start brushing the East Topanga Fire Road in Topanga State Park as the first phase of road maintenance this fiscal year. The second phase of project will be re-grading the road to “out slope” the road for more natural drainage of the road. The notice below will be posted on the East Topanga Fire Road to inform the public of the maintenance project. This project is part of large scale project to “out slope” all State Park Fire Roads in the Santa Monica Mountains to reduce sedimentation in the Santa Monica Bay. If you have any questions, please contact Dale Skinner at 310/699-1717.
Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category
Today, October 23, 2015, Congresswoman Judy Chu kept a commitment made at the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument One Year Anniversary celebration last week, and revealed to CORBA and MWBA in a meeting a few weeks prior to that. She has introduced House Bill 3820, The San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act.
The act establishes a new unit of the National Park Service. At our preliminary reading of the Act, it appears to be largely consistent with Alternative D of the San Gabriel Watershed and Mountains Special Resource Study (SGWMSRS), which we supported, albeit with some concerns and caveats.
This act goes to great lengths in protecting existing water, property, utility and infrastructure rights, and expressly prohibits the use of Eminent Domain to acquire property. It establishes an Advisory Committee under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), which includes water agencies, infrastructure, local governments, conservancies, environmentalists, recreation including OHV, and other stakeholders. It doesn’t, however, specifically mention bicycles. It also establishes a partnership committee to support the NRA.
The bill authorizes the National Park Service to establish the San Gabriel National Recreation Area as a new unit of the NPS. It allows them to enter into partnerships and collaborate with existing and willing land managers with the proposed boundary. This includes the Army Corps of Engineers who own and operate much of the flood control infrastructure along the river. It permits and encourages collaborations and partnerships to be leveraged to improve habitat, recreation, resource protection, water quality, infrastructure or any of the purposes for which the NRA will be established ( as specified in Section 102(A) of the bill). The NPS can only acquire land from willing sellers and enter into partnership with willing entities, agencies, and nonprofits. Despite claims to the contrary, this is not a “land grab.”
The bill gives the National Park Service three years to develop a management plan and a visitor services plan, in conjunction with the Advisory Committee (and as required by NEPA, the public). There are however two words that appear highly subjective. In Section 108 (a)(3)(B) In the development of a Visitor Services Plan, the Secretary Shall consider the demand for various types of recreation (including hiking, picnicking, horseback riding, and the use of motorized and mechanized vehicles) where permissible and appropriate; [Emphasis added]. The word “appropriate” in this context is too subjective, without any reference to who makes the determination for appropriateness, and by what criteria. We know there are many who deem bicycles inappropriate anywhere, and we would hope that any determination of appropriateness of bicycles or any other form of recreation be transparent and include public involvement beyond the Advisory Committee and Partnership.
Also required is the establishment of the San Gabriel National Recreation Partnership, consisting of the many land managers, utility managers, and local governments within the boundary. The partnership includes “One designee of San Gabriel Mountains National Monument Community.” We wonder if this is a referral to the Community Collaborative, on which CORBA President Steve Messer serves to represent bicycle recreation interests.
That original SGWMSR Study and the Alternative D supported by CORBA included most of the San Gabriel Watershed within the Angeles National Forest. This study concluded in in 2011, and was the precursor to our National Monument. In early 2014, Chu introduced legislation to establish a National Recreation Area in accordance with the study, but it was clear it was not going to make it out of committee in the congressional climate at that time. This urged her and other advocates to seek alternative protection for the San Gabriel Watershed, ie. to have President Obama declare a San Gabriel Mountains National Monument (SGMNM), which included all of the San Gabriel Watershed, and then some.
One of our concerns with Alternative D of the SGWSRS was how it was going to be funded. At the time, in 2011, the Nation’s economy was in a much sorrier state than it is today, so the financial and administrative burdens a new NPS unit would create were, and still remain a concern. While we are doing better economically, we all know that our public land agencies are all dealing with reduced budgets and severe cutbacks over the past decades. As we commented in 2011, we would hope that funding be secured from additional sources that do not impact or reduce the budgets of other NPS or USFS units, including our local Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and Angeles National Forest/San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.
Another concern we had with the SGWMSRS was that Forest Service land outside the San Gabriel Watershed Study area under Alternative D would receive reduced services and resources from the Forest Service. We didn’t want to see all the priorities going to the National Recreation Area. Much of the area left out of the National Monument was not in the original San Gabriel Watershed Special Resource Study, which some have speculated is a reason for the exclusion from the National Monument. With our SGMNM, we have the same concerns: that areas outside the Monument under Forest Service control would be the forgotten stepchild of the National Monument. While much attention is being placed on the National Monument, we are also seeing benefits to the rest of the Forest.
Chu’s legislation aims to correct the omission of those Forest Service lands from the SGMNM. Title 2 of HR3820 appears to expand the boundary of the existing SGMNM to include all of the Angeles National Forest south of the 14 and east of the 5. It makes no other claims and places no additional burdens on the Forest Service with respect to additional time to prepare a Management Plan. We are beginning to see the impacts of the additional funding the National Monument designation has brought to the Angeles National Forest. Thus far, we see it as good for the Forest. While we do have concerns that when and if the current bill is enacted, the Monument Management plan currently in development will need to be revised once again. Chu’s bill simply applies whatever existing National Monument management plan is in place or in development to the expanded Monument. While sounding simple in theory, the burden of changing boundaries and evaluating the additional cultural, historical, ecological and recreational resources within the expansion will take additional time.
The expansion of the existing National Monument in HR3820 already has much support within the community. Tim Brick from the Arroyo Seco Foundation has been especially vocal about his disappointment with the way the current National Monument boundaries were drawn, and that it happened without any public process or explanation of the reasoning. His feelings are widely echoed in the community, especially now that we are seeing additional funds being allocated to the Forest Service since the National Monument designation.
Our initial thoughts on the bill are positive but guarded; we need more time to digest the content of the bill and its long-term ramifications. Its intentions are in line with those of CORBA’s mission: enhancing recreation, and protecting the lands on which we recreate. If you have strong feelings about the bill please let us know as we formulate our official position.
Map of the proposed San Gabriel National Recreation Area and San Gabriel Mountains National Monument Expansion:
Complete text of HR3820
With proposed developments at Tapia Canyon and our pending proposal for a bike park at Castaic Lake State Recreation Area, there are some changes coming to trails and bike access in the Castaic Area. We’ve long known that the trails of Tapia Canyon, in particular, would be at risk once the developers move forward with their construction plans. We’ve had several meetings with the developers who seem willing to work with us to preserve some trails in the area.
In response to the public’s need for future planning, 5th District Supervisor Michael Antonovich has authorized the development of the Castaic Area Multi-Use Trail Plan. The County will survey existing trails, proposed developments, desired trail connections, and gauge future trail needs to support a growing population. This will be a similar process to the Santa Susana Mountains Trail Master Plan, a process in which we participated from April 2012 until it’s completion last year.
The first general public meeting is scheduled for Thursday, August 20th at 6:30 p.m., at the Los Angeles County Castaic Public Library, 27971 Sloan Canyon Road, Val Verde, CA 91384. This meeting will be followed by three user-group specific meetings for mountain bikers, equestrians, and hikers. Currently the mountain bikers’ meeting conflicts with Interbike, so we have asked if that can be rescheduled.
Last year CORBA submitted a comprehensive Bike Park proposal for the Grasshopper Canyon area of Castaic Lake State Recreation Area which we would like to see included in this planning process.
If you’re able to, come to this meeting and express your support for our bike park proposal, for preserving existing multi-use trails, and for creating new trail opportunities, such as the conceptual “Castaic Loop Trail.”
Read the County’s Fact Sheet for more details: Castaic Area Multi-Use Trails Plan Factsheet
Castaic Area Trail Master Plan General Meeting
When: Thursday, August 20th at 6:30 p.m.,
Castaic Area Trail Master Plan Mountain Bikers Meeting
When: Thursday, September 17th at 6:30 p.m.,
Today, August 11, 2015, CORBA and the Mount Wilson Bicycling Association (MWBA), submitted joint comments to the U.S. Forest Service on the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument Plan and Land Management Plan Amendment’s “Need to Change” Analysis. Our comments are linked below.
As members of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument Community Collaborative, we have also signed the consensus comments submitted by the Collaborative group, which we helped develop.
These are an important milestone in the development of a management plan for our new National Monument. The Presidential Proclamation directed the Forest Service to develop a management plan within three years. Most management plans take longer than that to develop, but the Forest Service’s approach to amend the current plan should allow them to complete the plan within the alotted time frame. We were pleased that the Forest Service extended the current comment period to allow for more thoughtful comments.
We were in general agreement with most of the findings of the “Need to Change” analysis, which stated specifically that the existing Forest Plan guidance on Recreation Management did not need to change. However, the Proclamation calls for the development of a Transportation Plan, which could impact recreational trail management. Accordingly, we commented on the need to develop a transportation plan for the entire Forest, both to improve recreational opportunities and to protect the resources of the Forest.
It is now up to the Forest Service to take into consideration all of the comments submitted, and their own analysis to develop a draft Environmental Assessment and Monument Management Plan. We expect that draft to be available for public review in spring, 2016.
Until that time, we’ll continue to work with the Forest Service on project-level issues including trail maintenance and restoration, in accordance with our existing partnership and volunteer agreements.
Yesterday, July 10, 2015, President Obama used his powers under the Antiquities act to declare three new National Monuments. There were another three declared in February 2015, and a further monument in December. That’s seven new National Monuments since we were given the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument on October 10, 2014.
Clearly, this President has been on a roll when it comes to land protections. All of these new National Monuments will face the similar challenges of developing management plans that protect the resources of the monuments, but also allows for recreation and enjoyment of those resources. Each has their unique characteristics and each proclamation is written specifically for each monument.
Of the most recently-declared monuments, one has no real biking opportunities. The Waco Mammoth National Monument was owned and operated as an archaeological dig site by the City of Waco, Texas. Under the new monument, the city of Waco will transfer the 108 acre site to the Federal Government, via the National Park Service, who will now coordinate with the City and with Baylor University to continue archaeological research and protect the site.
The other two, Berryessa Snow National Monument in northern California, and the Basin Range National Monument in Nevada, both include trails and mountain biking opportunities on a mix of Forest Service and BLM lands. In both proclamations, recreation opportunities are considered. The Berryessa Snow proclamation reads “…motorized and mechanized vehicle use in the monument shall be allowed only on roads and trails designated for such use, consistent with the care and management of the objects identified above.”
In the Basin Range, more than 700,000 acres of Nevada desert and mountain terrain, there are many trails. The proclamation similarly states that “…motorized vehicle use shall be permitted only on roads existing as of the date of the proclamation. Non-motorized mechanized vehicle use shall be permitted only on roads and trails designated for their use, consistent with the care and management of the objects identified above. The Secretary shall prepare a transportation plan that designates the roads and trails where motorized or non-motorized mechanized vehicle use will be permitted.”
In both of the above examples, just as in our own San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, mountain bikes will be permitted only on roads and trails authorized for their use. One difference between the two, however, is that the Basin Range proclamation also explicitly prohibits the development of new motorized vehicle routes. No such restriction is placed on non-motorized trails used for mountain bikes or “mechanized” travel, but the development of a transportation plan is where the details will be hammered out.
Similarly, our San Gabriel Mountains National Monument allows existing uses on existing trails, but also calls for the development of a transportation plan that will include trails, roads, and their respective use designations. Mountain bikers in all these areas should be thankful for the elevated protections these special places have now been given, but should also remain engaged as active trail advocates, trail stewards, and partners in the development of the management plans and transportation plans that will govern our future access to and enjoyment of these special landscapes and the trails by which we experience them.
CORBA has been involved in the Rim of the Valley Corridor since our inception. In fact, we’re so ingrained in the process that the Rim of the Valley Corridor is mentioned in our mission statement as our primary territory of concern. We were excited to see the draft study released, and have submitted comments on the plan.
The study sought to answer the following:
1. Does the area possess nationally significant natural or cultural resources?
2. Is it a suitable and unique addition to the National Park System?
3. Can it be feasibly added to the Park System?
4. Does it require direct NPS management, instead of stewardship from other groups or a public-private combination?
The answer to all of the above questions was a “yes.” The National Park Service presented four alternatives based on the study findings. The first NEPA-required “no action” alternatives serves as a baseline against which we can compare the alternatives. Alternative B allows the NPS to offer “technical assistance” to existing land managers within the study area, but falls short of allowing the NPS to make any direct capitol investments.
Alternatives C and D expand the authorized boundary of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. What the boundary expansions really mean is that the National Park Service will be authorized to offer technical assistance to existing land managers for any project that enhances recreation, or restores habitat and connectivity. Under Alternative C or D, the NPS is also authorized to spend money on capitol projects within the expanded boundaries.
We believe that the largest operational boundary proposed under Alternative D would have the greatest long-term benefit for recreation, bio-connectivity, wildlife and the communities adjacent to the study area. It also includes the wildlife corridors linking the two areas of the Angeles National Forest separated by Highway 14, as well as between the Santa Susana Mountains and Los Padres National Forests.
The boundary expansion does not come without concern. The NPS, like most public land agencies, is currently under-funded. We would hope that any boundary expansion would come with an increase in funding sufficient to at least maintain the current level of service across the expanded NRA.
During the course of the public meetings we heard a lot of misinformation and a misunderstanding of what the boundary expansions mean. The Federal government will not be taking anyone’s property against their will. Existing land ownership rights and management authority is respected and maintained.
One thing that would change is the permitting of landfills. In our comments, we asked for the existing landfills to be excluded from the proposed NRA expansion to eliminate the need for additional permitting. We also feel that the recently completed San Gabriel Watershed and Special Resource Study which proposed a San Gabriel Unit of the NRA, must be considered and its findings also addressed by any congressional action to the effect of either.
The Rim of the Valley trail system is also important to us. It’s a proposed multi-use trail network that will encircle the San Fernando Valley, and perhaps Simi and Conejo Valleys. We feel the National Park Service will be in a good position to help facilitate its completion under Alternatives C or D.
It will probably be another year before we see a final recommendation from the study. From there it will be up to Congress to decide what to do with the recommendations.
The National Park Service (NPS) today released the findings of the Rim of the Valley (ROTV) study, including a draft Environmental Impact Report and Proposed Alternatives. The study has been underway since 2010. CORBA has commented on previous phases of the study and has also encouraged our members and the mountain biking community to do so.
The NPS has developed five alternatives for the public to comment upon. Their preferred alternative expands the boundary of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) to include much of the study area, which would allow the NPS to provide technical assistance to other land managers within the NRA. Other alternatives include a “no action” alternative, meaning that nothing will change, a Conservation Partnership alternative, and a boundary expansion plus conservation partnership alternative. A fifth alternative, which would have only provided planning assistance for a Rim of the Valley trail, was rejected as it didn’t meet the objectives of the study.
None of the proposed alternatives would affect or include any Angeles National Forest or San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, which would remain under the management of the Forest Service. All alternatives (except the “no action” alternative) include the conceptual Rim of the Valley Trail, as originally envisioned by Marge Feinberg in her 1976 Masters thesis.
CORBA will be analyzing the study’s findings and will report back. Comments must be submitted before June 30, 2015. An executive summary can be found here. The comprehensive set of related documents and maps, and a comment submission form can be found on the NPS Park Planning web site, while a more user-friendly overview of the process can be found at http://www.nps.gov/pwro/rimofthevalley/index.htm
The NPS is hosting six public meetings between April 21, 2015 and June 2, 2015 to discuss the findings and alternatives presented in the draft study report. We invite and encourage all CORBA members and supporters to attend one of the public meetings. For those unable to attend, we’ll post a full report after the first meeting.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015 12:30 p.m.(PDT)/ 3:30 p.m.(EDT) (WebEx Connect Time)
Please check-in early as there could be some software downloads that you may need to install to participate. The meeting presentation will start promptly at 1:00 pm PDT/4:00 pm EDT.
Click here for instructions on how to participate in the online meeting.
Local Public Meetings Schedule:
Monday, May 4, 2015, 7–9 pm
La Crescenta Public Library, Community Room
2809 Foothill Blvd.
La Crescenta, CA 91214
Tuesday, May 5, 2015, 7–9 pm
William S. Hart Regional Park, Hart Hall
24151 Newhall Avenue
Newhall, CA 91321
Wednesday, May 6,2015, 7–9 pm
Conejo Recreation and Parks District
403 West Hillcrest Dr.
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
Thursday, May 21, 2015, 7–9 pm
Mason Recreation Center
10500 Mason Ave.
Chatsworth, CA 91311
Tuesday, June 2, 2015, 3-5 pm*
El Pueblo de Los Angeles
130 Paseo de la Plaza
Los Angeles CA 90012
California State Parks will be performing maintenance on all fire roads throughout the park. The project is underway and will take several weeks. This is considered routine maintenance, to restore the fire roads to their intended purpose, as well as to prevent further degradation of the roads and impacts to the environment.
Every time maintenance of this type is done, we know that there are many experienced mountain bikers who don’t like the changes. Having our favorite “challenging sections” smoothed over often comes as a surprise. On the other hand, some riders welcome the improvements. But regardless, the fire roads will change.
Why is this being done? Fire roads are primarily transportation corridors for fire fighting, emergency vehicle access, administrative work within the parks, and for recreation. Over time, all dirt fire roads degrade and begin to develop ruts and water channels form. Once the ruts begin to form, rain will then extend and deepen those ruts. This creates additional challenge for cyclists, but it also makes it more difficult for the State Parks administration to do their job of managing the park. Their primary mission is to preserve the park and it’s natural resources for us and our future generations.
Currently fire road maintenance work is being done on the Eagle Springs loop to repair existing damage, reduce future maintenance needs, and to provide additional protection of the environment. The Regional Water Quality Control Board mandates State Parks and other land managers to reduce sediments washed into the creeks and streams. Studies have demonstrated that fire roads are major contributors to this problem. State Parks had to determine which fire roads were causing the most erosion and sediment runoff in both Malibu Creek State Park and Topanga State Park. They have identified Eagle Springs loop as a priority project.
State Parks are currently outsloping as many areas of the roads as possible. We always try to outslope trails when we do trail maintenance. Outsloping helps shed water off the trail or road. Insloped roads carry and channel water and the more water carried causes more erosion. In some particularly bad areas in Topanga State Park, roads have lost about five feet of material across the whole eighteen feet of width of the road.
The sediment washed off these roads heavily impacts streams and creeks in the parks as it makes its way to Santa Monica Bay. On a state-wide basis State Parks has turned to outsloping all back country roads and trails. This has shown to reduce erosion and be a more sustainable maintenance practice. In the long run sediment runoff will be greatly reduced, further protecting the streams, creeks and the environment as a whole.
Eagle Rock Fire Road was given the highest priority in Topanga since it showed the heaviest erosion. It was no longer accessible by vehicles. It was also causing damage and erosion on Musch Trail, which joins the road.
State Parks appreciates your understanding, and CORBA, supports their efforts to reduce impacts to the environment. We all want to protect the places we play and ride. If that means grading over a section of road to make it more sustainable, we’re fine with that. The alternative is to decommission the road and close it to all users, something none of want to see.
During and for some time after construction, the roads will not be very pretty, and may be soft and loose until the tread gets packed down. In time, they’ll return to a more natural looking state. Most mountain bike injuries occur on fire roads, due to the ease with which we can gain speed. So as we ride these newly graded roads, remember to be safe, and that there is a 15mph speed limit on all trails and fire roads within the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
Palm Canyon Epic (PCE) is one of the iconic long-distance rides of Southern California. It’s a spectacular point-to-point route in the Santa Rosa Mountains, south of Palm Springs and Cathedral City. It’s a place that many dedicated mountain bikers make an annual winter pilgrimage to ride.
Though it’s outside CORBA’s territory, many CORBA members and supporters ride the trail. The BLM has completed an environmental document for a land swap with the Agua Caliente band of Cahuila Indians. When the land was parceled out in the 1800’s, it was done in a checkerboard fashion. Alternating lots were deeded to the Indian tribe and to the U.S. government through the BLM. The land swap is an attempt to consolidate ownership of contiguous properties so the land can be more easily managed.
While the tribe’s stewardship of their lands has been positive, the tribe doesn’t allow bicycles on trails. They charge a fee for hikers and equestrians. In the land swap, portions of the Palm Canyon trail, and many other trails important to the local communities, would become tribal land. Though the tribe have stated they would keep the trail open, there is nothing in this environmental document requiring them to do so. They’ve already posted “no bikes” signs on the Indian Potrero trail, which crosses tribal land for a short distance, and is a part of the classic PCE.
Now is the time to make your voice heard and write to the BLM. We believe it is in everyone’s best interest to keep these trails within public ownership (BLM). Scenario 1 is our preferred option, which keeps the trails with the BLM. Our colleagues at the San Diego Mountain Bike Association provide more background information and have drafted a letter that you can cut and paste. You can find their letter here. Comments must be received by March 29th, 2015!
Whether you’ve already ridden it and love it, or would like to be able to do so in the future, do it now! It will only take a minute or two of your time, and every letter or email sent counts.
If you’re not familiar with this epic rides, you can watch a couple of Palm Canyon mountain biking videos.
As reported earlier this month, Point Mugu State Park has been closed to the public while the damage to the trails is being assessed and repaired. Heavy equipment has been working to reestablish Sycamore Canyon and the public is still being asked to stay out of the park until such time as it is safe. Trucks will be bringing in dirt from the slides that covered Pacific Coast Highway to aid in repair. State Parks’ Angeles District Superintendent Craig Sap stated that the closure will extend until February 1, but that all attempts will be made to lift the closure sooner if possible.
Click here to see additional photos by Craig Sap of the mud slides effecting PCH and Point Mugu State Park.
Below is current trail damage assessment of the condition of the trails in Point Mugu State Park:
Blue Canyon Trail: Fair
Chumash Trail: Good
Chamberlain Trail: Excellent
Coastal Trail: Gone
Coyote Trail: Lower portion covered with debris
Fire Line Trail: Unknown
Fossil Trail: Poor condition
Great Dune View Trail: Good
Guadalasca Trail: Fair
Hidden Pond Connector Trail: Good
Hidden Pond Trail: 25% of repairs Complete
La Jolla Canyon Trail: Devastated
La Jolla Valley Loop Trail: 75% of repairs complete
La Jolla Valley Connector Trail: Fair
La Jolla Pond Trail: Cleared
Mugu Peak Loop Trail: Debris across trail needs to be smoothed out
Mugu Peak Spur Trail: Good
Old Boney Trail: Fair from Sycamore to Blue Canyon
Old Cabin Trail: Poor
Ray Miller Trail: 25% of repairs complete
Sage Trail: Excellent
Scenic Trail: Fair
Serrano Canyon Trail: Good
Serrano Valley Loop Trail: Minor erosion
Serrano Valley Trail: Old Roadbed from gate has several large washouts, all stream crossings need rebuilding
Sin Nombre Trail: Fair
Sycamore Creek Trail: Heavy Damage to Stairs and Gabions
Tri Peaks Trail: Unknown
Two Foxes Trail: Debris flows across the trail at the drainage crossings
Upper Sycamore Trail: Devastated
Waterfall Trail: Good
Wood Canyon Vista Trail: Good